Monday, September 23, 2019

Garland's back -- in the interesting Goold/ Edge/Quilter/Zellweger collaboration, JUDY

Judy Garland's legion of fans may be dying off in large numbers these days -- the famed singer/ actress was at her peak from the 1930s thru the early 1960s -- but those of actress Renée Zellweger, despite the latter's six-year disappearance from movies during the 2010-2016 period, are still around and large enough, TrustMovies suspects, to help make the new film about Garland, simply titled JUDY, a moderate success.

As directed by Britisher Rupert Goold (shown below), with a screenplay by Tom Edge (from the stage play, End of the Rainbow, by Peter Quilter), the movie covers the last years of Ms Garland's life during her final and very up-and-down performances in London -- with numerous flashbacks to her early days and career as MGM's most successful musical star.

As a film, this is all pretty standard and mostly downbeat stuff, due to Garland's addiction to drugs and alcohol, along with her either choosing poor marriage partners or not understanding how, nor being able, to make a success of those partnerships.

So Judy proves a mostly glum movie -- it would have to be were it to remain true to the facts of this difficult and sad life. Those rumors of how a certain Mr. Mayer and his minions treated the young Garland are shown via pointed if somewhat obvious scenes.

Meanwhile our adult Judy -- clearly down on her luck and performing daytime shows for little pay with her two younger children (shown two photos below; the movie features but a single scene with her daughter Liza) -- meets her fifth and last husband, Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock, below), whose presence is welcome until Garland's drinking and drug use helps ruin this relationship, too.

Interestingly, we don't hear a lick of Garland's singing until maybe 40 minutes or more into the film. How it is introduced is quiet and clever, too. From that point we get more songs, and Ms Zellweger does a good job of giving us Garland's look and sound, even if, to my mind, no one -- not even Liza Minnelli -- has come close to capturing that unique voice and the enormous range of emotions it contained.

Yet even the musical numbers here are all tinged -- occasionally a good deal more than that -- with sadness and failure to launch. The film does not shy away from the addictive behavior that made Garland's reputation increasingly bleak until almost no one wanted to take a chance on booking her -- for movies or concerts.

Garland had a large gay following, well before homosexuality came out of the closet and when, in England, it was still a crime for which you could go to prison. Yet the single "up" scene in the film involves two gay fans of the singer, waiting to greet her after the show and ending up making her dinner in their flat.

True or not, it makes a lovely few minutes and gives the movie an ooomph that helps it move along, while leading to the kind of feel-good finale, brief as it might be, that makes nice use of Garland's signature song and should put a tear into the eyes of die-hard fans.

The film's production design is first-rate, with sets, costumes and cars all nicely period, and care has been taken to not duplicate exactly but clearly still match the look, style and colors of Garland's attire. And Zellweger certainly recreates the emotional life of the singer -- on stage and off.

From Roadside Attractions and LD Entertainment and running just under two full hours, Judy opens this Friday, September 27, nationwide. Here in South Florida, you can find it in Miami at the Regal South Beach 18, AMC's Sunset Place 24 and Aventura Mall 24 theatres, CMX Brickell City Center 10, Silverspot at Met Square Cinemas; in Fort Lauderdale at The Classic Gateway 4; at the Paradise 24 in Davie; at the Cinemark Palace 20, Living Room Theaters, and Regal Shadowood 16, all in Boca Raton; at the Movies of Delray 5 and Movies of Lake Worth; at the Cinemark Boynton Beach 14; at Cobb's Downtown at the Mall Gardens Palm 16; at the Royal Palm Beach 18; the Cinepolis Jupiter 14; and the Regal Treasure Coast Mall 16 in Jensen Beach. 

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